The Best Insulated Jacket Review

What's the best insulated jacket? We've lived in, camped in, climbed in, skied, hiked, and biked in literally dozens of insulated jackets over the past couple years. Here, we compare side by side 20 of the absolute best. The spectrum is large; you'll find insulated jackets for the weight-saving backcountry traveler, insulated jackets for the winter alpine climber, insulated jackets for everyday casual use and just about everything else. We've tested and ranked these jackets on factors like warmth, weight, packability, weather resistance, mobility, and the quality of their features. Within each individual product review we discuss each of these factors, along with our overall impressions, and comment on each jacket's best application and value.

This review includes jackets with synthetic insulations and two jackets that use wool insulation. See our Men's Down Jacket Review, Men's Parka Review, Women's Down Jacket Review and Women's Parka Review for down insulated products. Not sure if you need a down or synthetic insulated jacket? Be sure to read our Insulated Jacket Buying Advice article or our Down Jacket Buying Advice article for an in depth discussion of the differences, and the pros and cons each.
You might also find The Best Insulated Jacket For Women Review helpful as well.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Insulated Jackets - Men's Displaying 1 - 5 of 20 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Rab Xenon X
Rab Xenon X
Read the Review
Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody
Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody
Read the Review
Arc'teryx Fission SL
Arc'teryx Fission SL
Read the Review
Patagonia DAS Parka
Patagonia DAS Parka
Read the Review
Video video review
Montane Ice Guide
Montane Ice Guide
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award      Top Pick Award   
Street Price Varies $140 - $215
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $174 - $249
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $600 - $750
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $176 - $299
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $289 - $303
Compare at 2 sellers
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88% recommend it (7/8)
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Pros Very light, very warm for its weight, compresses compactly into its own chest pocket.Very light, packs into pocketWaterproof breathable shell with a durable face fabric, extremely nice features, excellent hood.One of the warmest insulated jackets.Warm, excellent fit, great hood, very well design features.
Cons No hood cinch, expensive.Durability can be a concernExpensive, Waterproof breathable shell not necessary for most applications.Hood not very protective, bulky.PrimaLoft ECO less warm than PrimaLoft ONE.
Best Uses General outdoor use. Alpine, ice and rock climbing. Mountaineering, skiing.General outdoor use. Alpine, rock, and ice climbing.Cold and wet conditions. Winter climbing, skiing.Alpine climbing, ice climbing, ski touring.Winter backcountry use. Cold-weather alpine and ice climbing.
Date Reviewed Feb 20, 2014Apr 13, 2013Mar 22, 2013Apr 13, 2013Mar 22, 2013
Weighted Scores Rab Xenon X Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Arc'teryx Fission SL Patagonia DAS Parka Montane Ice Guide
Warmth - 0.35%
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Water Resistance - 0.1%
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Mobility - 0.1%
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Weight Compactness - 0.35%
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Features - 0.1%
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Product Specs Rab Xenon X Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Arc'teryx Fission SL Patagonia DAS Parka Montane Ice Guide
Insulation 60g/m2 PrimaLoft One 60g/m2 PrimaLoft One 2.7oz ThermaTek 120g/m2 PrimaLoft Synergy with additional 60g/m2 PrimaLoft One in torso 210g/m2 PrimaLoft Eco in the front of jacket, 170g/m2 throughout the rest
Total Weight 375g 354g / 12.3 oz 614g / 21.7oz 669g / 23.6oz 635g / 22.4oz
Main Fabric Pertex Quantum 1oz 15D 100% recycled polyester shell with 1.4oz 22D 100% recycled polyester lining N40p-X face fabric with waterproof breathable Gore-Tex Pro membrane Pertex Endurance Pertex Microlight Stretch with Pertex Microlight mini ripstop reinforcements on forearms
Number of Pockets 2 hand, 1 external chest (doubles as stuffsack) 2 hand, 1 interior chest (doubles as stuffsack) 2 hand, 2 interior mesh drop-in 2 hand, 1 chest, 2 interior mesh drop-in 2 hand, 2 external chest
Hood? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hood Adjustments n/a None 3 1 3
Stuffs Into Itself? Yes Yes No No No

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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Rab Xenon X
$250
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Montbell UL Thermawrap Jacket
$145
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REI Revelcloud Jacket
$150
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Rab Xenon
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Arc'teryx Atom SV - Men's
$260
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Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody
$250
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Mountain Hardwear Quasar Insulated
$340
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Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody
$220
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Mountain Hardwear Hooded Compressor
$250
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Rab Strata Hoody
$225
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Rab Generator Alpine
$225
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Haglofs Barrier Pro Hood
$230
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Montane Ice Guide
$280
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Outdoor Research Havoc
$225
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Arc'teryx Fission SL
$699
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Wild Things Belay Jacket
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Mountain Hardwear Zonal - Men's
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Ibex Wool Aire Hoody
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Helly Hansen Odin Hooded Belay Jacket
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There are dozens of insulated jackets on the market. There is variety in every aspect - warmth, weight, style, intended use, etc - and it is indeed a bit overwhelming if you're looking for your perfect jacket. So, let's begin with a rhetorical question: Why get an insulated jacket in the first place? Because of the inevitability of needing to stay warm - regardless of pursuit - in the outdoors, a well-chosen insulated jacket may well be your most-often used piece of outer wear. They offer warmth, relative wind and water protection, and generally a good bit of versatility, at home on most any adventure.
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Matt climbing with the Outdoor Research Havoc jacket and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest pack. High Sierra, California.
Credit: Evan Ludmer


Selecting the Right Product
All of the jackets in this review have synthetic insulation, with the exception of two (one by Ibex, one by Smartwool) which use wool insulation. Down-insulated jackets can be seen in our Men's Down Jacket Review, and our Men's Parka Review. Synthetic insulation, like down, exists in varying quality. For the moment, however, let's focus on the differences between synthetic insulation broadly, and down as insulators. Generally speaking, down is much warmer for its weight than synthetic insulations. In other words, in terms of offering weight-efficient warmth, synthetics have yet to match mother nature, and down is king. Down however, has one major flaw - it is vulnerable to moisture. Down loses its loft, and ability to keep you warm, when it gets wet. This is synthetic insulations number one attribute. It is not nearly as susceptible to moisture, and better maintains its insulating capability when wet, compared to down. Additionally, synthetic insulated jackets are often cheaper than down jackets, offering a more price accessible, and at least generally, weather versatile insulating option overall. Compared to fleece, synthetic insulated jackets are warmer for their weight, and offer much better weather protection when used as an outer layer, particularly when it comes to wind, which will blow right through fleece. Take the time to read our Insulated Jacket Buying Advice article for a more in depth discussion of down-vs-synthetic insulation and other features to look for in selecting a insulated jacket.
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Chris Simrell in the Rab Xenon with the Wild Things Guide Pack on the Torment-Forbidden Traverse. North Cascades, WA
Credit: Will Dean


Types of Insulated Jackets
Overall there are five general categories of insulated jackets in this review.

Light insulated jackets
Most of the jackets we reviewed can be lumped into this category. These are your go-to, do-everything jackets. They are relatively light, both in total weight, and in insulation weight, and therefore offer lightweight, moderate warmth for all sorts of applications. These jackets are a staple year-round - as a main insulating piece on summer alpine rock climbs, as insulating mid-layers on winter backcountry pursuits, and as everyday jackets in the chillier months of fall and spring. High scoring jackets that fall into this category are the Rab Xenon X, the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody, the Haglofs Barrier Pro Hood, the Arc'teryx Atom LT, the REI Revelcloud Jacket, the MontBell UL Thermawrap Jacket, the Rab Strata, and the Outdoor Research Havoc among a few others.
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Haglofs Barrier Pro Hood.
Credit: Molly Ravits


Cold-weather insulated jackets
The second category is that of the warm, winter-specific insulated jacket. Only a handful of the jackets we reviewed fall into this category, but it is worth pointing out the distinction between these and jackets in the first group above. The Patagonia DAS Parka, the Montane Ice Guide and the Wild Things Belay Jacket primarily make up this category. They feature significantly more insulation than the other jackets in this review, and are thus much warmer overall. Often they have other cold-weather features like more protective hoods, longer overall cut, and a bigger fit to support layering underneath. These jackets are intended for winter-use, and generally are designed with alpine or ice climbing as their primary application. They are too warm for most non-winter activities, with the exception of alpine climbing applications like the Alaska Range in spring and summer, or other mountain objectives.
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Chris Simrell stays extra extra warm while racking up with the Patagonia DAS layered over the Montane Ice Guide.
Credit: Molly Ravits


Waterproof shell insulated jackets
This third category is made up of only two jackets - the Arc'teryx Fission SL and the Mountain Hardwear Quasar Insulated. These two jackets separate themselves from the others here in that they are the only jackets we reviewed that feature waterproof shell material. These are better thought of as "insulated shells" rather than your standard "insulated jacket". They offer far superior weather and water protection, but are much more "application specific" and lack the broad versatility and day-to-day applicability of the products in the first category.
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Fission SL
Credit: Jordi V.


Mid-weight insulated jackets
These are jackets that have more insulation, and are therefore warmer, than the jackets in the first category, but are less warm than the more cold-weather specific jackets in category two. Some, like the Arc'teryx Atom SV, are warmer versions of a light-insulated jacket (Arc'teryx Atom LT). Others like the Rab Generator Alpine and Helly Hansen Odin Hooded Belay Jacket, are intended to be weight-conscious jackets offering more than the standard warmth, in a package still relatively light, packable, and manageable for on-the-go activities.

Wool insulated jackets
Two of the jackets in this review, the Ibex Wool Aire Hoody and the Smartwool SmartLoft Divide Full Zip are insulated with wool. The Aire Hoody is designed as a standard lightweight insulated jacket. The PhD SmartLoft Divide Full Zip is more of an "active use" insulating layer. It only features insulation on the front of the body. Wool, has been around forever in the outdoor world, loved for it's warmth, ability to keep you warm when wet, and superior odor control compared to synthetics. These two products, and others by these manufactures are taking a different approach to wool, using it as an insulating material, a la down, inside of jackets constructed of other materials.

Criteria for Evaluation
Warmth
Ultimately, an insulated jacket's primary purpose is - you guessed it, insulation. Here, we assessed the overall ability of a jacket to keep you warm. The warmer the jacket, the higher the score. This might sound simple, but in reality it's rather complex. Let's tackle each aspect one by one.

Insulation Type
Like down, synthetic insulations are not all created equal. It is important to be aware of what type of synthetic insulation is used in the jacket you are considering buying. PrimaLoft ONE is broadly considered to be the industry's best, warmer for its weight than other synthetic insulations, and maintaining its insulating capability when wet very well. PrimaLoft comes in other versions as well. Notable in this review is PrimaLoft ECO, which incorporates recycled material into the insulation, making it a more environmentally conscious product. Unfortunately, ECO doesn't perform quite as well as ONE. It is less warm for it's weight. Some manufactures use insulations of their own (Coreloft and ThermaTek in Arc'teryx jackets, Thermic Micro in Mountain Hardwear products, and EXCELOFT for MontBell). These insulations have their own pros and cons, which we discuss within the reviews if relevant. Polartec Alpha is a new insulation to the market (the Rab Strata is the only jacket in this review to feature it). It's claim to fame is breathability, and it thus sacrifices some overall warming capability. This sets it apart from the other insulations in terms of application. Finally, two jackets here feature wool as insulation. Wool provides a naturally moisture resistant insulator and is a good option for those looking for a more natural, sustainable product. Check out our Insulated Jacket Buying Advice article for a more detailed discussion of different insulation types, and their respective pros and cons.

Insulation weight
Synthetic insulations are offered in different "weights" or thicknesses. These weights can vary across brands, but are usually measured by their grams per square meter or g/m2. Generally speaking lightweight jackets use 60g/m2 (PrimaLoft ONE, ECO, Coreloft etc). The mid-weight jackets we reviewed usually have about 100g/m2 of insulation. and the warmest jackets have about twice this. Sometimes different insulation weights are combined in one jacket to increase core warmth while keeping weight and bulk at a minimum - 100g/m2 in the torso for example, with 60g/m2 insulation in the sleeves. The overall warmth of you jacket will be a function of its insulation type, insulation weight, and the breathability / weather resistance of the outer shell material.

Breathability
Some jackets are designed for overall warmth. Other jackets however are designed to offer a degree of breathability, to mitigate overheating when worn during activity. There is a tradeoff here. The jackets that are more breathable have side vents, fleece panels, more breathable outer fabrics or insulation, or some combination of such features that allow them to shed excess heat more effectively, but consequently make them less warm jackets overall. Insulated jackets with better breathability, like the Arc'teryx Atom LT are sometimes best used as an insulating mid layer. The Rab Strata, with Polartec Alpha insulation, is in a category of its own, specifically designed to maximize breathability, intended to be used during high output activity.
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The Rab Strata and the Haglofs Roc 35 pack.
Credit: Molly Ravits


Weight / Compactness
Here, we scored jackets on their overall weight, with lighter jackets scoring higher. Important here is not just total weight but also the packability of a jacket, and if it has any special features that aid in this area. For example, we particularly appreciate jackets that pack into their own zippered pocket featuring a "clip-in" point. This eliminates the need for a stuffsack. More importantly, it greatly increases the versatility of the jacket among certain users, particularly climbers, since it allows the jacket to be brought along on multi-pitch climbs even if you don't bring a pack since the jacket can be stuffed and clipped directly to the climbing harness. High-scoring jackets with this feature are the Rab Xenon X, and the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. Overall we find lighter jackets are generally more versatile, and offer the backcountry traveler the gift of a smaller, lighter pack. Some jackets, like the MontBell UL Thermawrap Jacket and the REI Revelcloud Jacket are very light, and attractive choices for the weight-saving traveler, but do not have the added warmth of hoods.
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Chris Simrell sports the Patagonia Houdini (green) and Nano Puff (blue) on the Prow, Yosemite.
Credit: Max Neale


Water Resistance
Although they do differ slightly among themselves, all synthetic insulators are much more water resistant than down. The most important aspect of any jacket's water resistance is the outer shell fabric - your primary barrier against the weather. Important here is both the fabric chosen by the manufacturer, and the overall construction of the jacket. Some jackets, like the Rab Xenon X for example, feature outer shell fabrics uninterrupted by quilt stitching. This results in a more wind and water resistant jacket overall, because there are far fewer seams for wind and water to sneak through. Within each review we also discuss the overall "weather resistance" of a given jacket, which includes not just the fabric choice, but also things like hood design and fit.
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Jack Cramer wearing the Rab Xenon X on a one-day ascent of The Nose - El Capitan, Yosemite, CA
Credit: Drew Smith


Two jackets in this review, the Arc'teryx Fission SL and the Mountain Hardwear Quasar Insulated have waterproof shells. These two jackets therefore offer far superior water protection than the others. They are consequently a bit "application specific", and are less versatile than many of the other jackets in the review. You don't need a waterproof shell on your insulated jacket to take an evening walk around the neighborhood, or for that matter on most rock climbs, hikes, etc.

Mobility
The "mobility" of a jacket is how well it moves with you during activity, generally the result of good fit and design. As you might expect lighter jackets scored better on this factor than bulkier, heavier jackets. As mentioned above, some jackets use a combination of insulation weights to balance warmth with low weight and mobility. The Rab Generator Alpine, Patagonia DAS Parka, Montane Ice Guide, and Mountain Hardwear Hooded Compressor are all examples of this.

Features
Here we evaluated the quality of a jackets features relating to the jackets best application. A jacket designed to for "light and fast backcountry travelers" for example, should have features that are not simply well made, but that also contribute to this goal. A jacket for this particular application might very well lack many features, but this lack of features should contribute to the overall design concept and the remaining features should be well chosen, helpful, and essential. Similarly, a heavy insulated jacket designed to provide warmth and comfort and weather protection while at rest in camp should have features that contribute to that design concept - fleece lined pockets perhaps, an excellent hood, roomier fit, etc.

And the Winners Are…
After months and months of use and abuse, we have chosen our award winners. See below for a short overview of each award winner, and be sure to check out each product review. Be sure take a look at our Insulated Jacket Buying Advice for more information on how to choose the right insulated jacket for your needs.

Editor’s Choice Award: Rab Xenon X
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Over more than a year of extensive testing, the Xenon was the light insulated jacket we most often wanted to grab. Its warmth to weight ratio is fantastic, it is durable, and for a light insulated jacket it provides great wind and water resistance, adding to overall warmth. In addition to being light, it packs into its own pocket and has a clip point for attaching to the climbing harness. We took is up the Regular NW Face of Half Dome, into the North Cascades for some alpine climbing, all throughout the Sierra in California, and on and on. It stood up very well to all use and abuse.

Top Pick Award: Patagonia DAS Parka
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If you're looking for warmth, the DAS Parka is our favorite. Coming in less than 24oz overall this jacket is very warm for its weight, combining Primaloft Synergy and Primaloft ONE for warmth, long-term durability and loft. This is a cold-weather specific jacket, best used as a belay parka for cold-weather alpine, ice climbs, and general mountaineering.

Best Buy Award: REI Revelcloud Jacket
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For $150 the Revelcloud is a great deal. With 60g/m2 of Primaloft ECO insulation it might appeal to the more ecologically aware. Though slightly less warm than the other light insulated jackets which use Primaloft ONE, the Revelcloud offers great performance for its price, and is a very lightweight jacket overall.

Best Buy Award: MontBell UL Thermawrap Jacket
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The MontBell UL (ultralight) Thermawrap also gets a Best Buy Award. This is the jacket for those willing to sacrifice some warmth for super weight savings. This is the lightest jacket in the review, but also one of the least warm. If going as light as possible is your intent, and you don't need a lot of warmth overall, the UL Thermawrap is an excellent deal at just $155.

Chris Simrell
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